Posts in "Life"
My Four Burners
My Four Burners | Freckled Italian
Imagine it this way. Your life is represented by a stove with four burners on it. Each burner representing one major quadrant of your life.

Burner one represents your family.
Burner two is your friends.
Burner three is your health.
Burner four is your work.

The Four Burners Theory says that “in order to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners. And in order to be really successful, you have to cut off two.”

Forget success—sometimes I’m just focusing on sanity.

I used to hear about the four burners and identify with the theory, but it never seemed hard to keep everything on the stove—I guess I didn’t have enough pots for that yet. Family, friends, health, and work were single items that could easily be managed, but lately I’ve been thinking about all the pots that try to get some heat from each burner.

Family

When it comes to family for me I guess I have a mom pot, a marriage pot, and a sister/daughter pot. My family definitely does come first, and I think it’s obvious that this past year, the baby has been my #1 priority. However, I’ve gotta say that my marriage is one of the things in my life that I’m most proud of. Rob and I have been together for almost 10 years and we are a really terrific team, if I do say so myself. We started young and we’re still pretty young and I’m just generally really proud of us. It’s been interesting to watch and feel my relationship with Rob turn into the main “family” one, especially now that Sophie is here.

Friends

This may sound sad but I don’t have a ton of friends in California. I’m pretty introverted in real life so I feel very blessed by the number of really close friends I’ve accumulated over the years, and because we’ve moved so much I just don’t ever feel like I need to get out there and make new friends. (You guys should read MWF Seeking BFF [affiliate link] if you haven’t—it goes into some really interesting stuff about how many friendships we can actually maintain). I text and chat with my friends across the country almost every day, but I can definitely go weeks and even months without talking to some of them.

I think what’s most important in my friendships is the ability to be far apart without falling apart, and we’re all busy and all over the place so it’s nice that my closest friends sort of operate that same way. It’s pretty rare that I feel like any of us are falling down on the job, so this burner stays lit pretty easily.

Health

On this burner are exercise and eating well, and for me lately they have been the first to go. Before Sophie I was at the barre studio almost every day, teaching and taking class; and Ender and I ran a few times a week and walked every day. I’m finally getting back into working out every day, but it’s been a pretty constant struggle. If I have 30 minutes of free time it means Sophie is napping and I usually want to work on something or clean something or even just lie down on the couch and take a little break.

I’m prone to migraines if I don’t eat right, and you’d think that would be enough of an incentive to stay away from the things that make me feel sick but sometimes it’s not (read more about my diet and food sensitivities). So to keep the health burner going, sometimes I’ll work out but eat crap, or maybe the other way around (which in my opinion is a lot more effective—you can’t really outrun a bad diet, you know?).

Work

Writing, recipe development and photography, and Pure Barre. I’ve barely cooked anything for the blog since Sophie was born, partly because I powered through hundreds of recipes for my cookbooks the last few years. I tried to start a journal the other day just to jump-start my creative writing juices, but I never really got back to it. I’ve been feeling burnt out for a while because I told myself that I’d be able to keep blogging after having a baby but never really gave myself full time away from everything (I was answering emails from my publisher on my phone in the hospital bed).

Now that it’s been almost a year I’m excited that we actually just hired a part-time nanny to come over two days a week for a few hours, which will be my time to focus on the blog, get started on that food photography course, and maybe teach a few more classes a week at the barre studio.

And finally, there are Things That Should Probably Go Somewhere But Never Seem To Stay Lit: keeping up with my home, reading for pleasure, getting my hair cut more than once a year. Are these pots? Burners? Who knows. I don’t really spend much time on “self care” but I guess that’s where all of them might fit, which is probably why I never stick with them. I guess they could get squeezed in under “health,” but I don’t know.

What pots are you balancing on your burners? What’s the first one that tends to go when things get crazy? What things would you like to make room for on the stove?

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On Being Busy
On Being Busy | Freckled Italian

This year I wanted to simplify but somehow I've managed to take on way more than I have in a long time. I've always been so irritated by people who are constantly sighing, responding with that word--busy--any time you ask them how they are.

And yet, as I've started branching out a bit more in my life and work, suddenly I'll notice that months have gone by since I called some of my friends and even family members; I sometimes go days between blog posts; and there are some mornings where I need to catch my breath so badly that work takes a backseat to cleaning the kitchen or just savoring a few hours of sleeping in next to Rob and Ender.

The last time I wrote a cookbook, the exhaustion hit me right away and I knew exactly where it was coming from. This time, with the second book, it kind of creeps up on me and I wonder why I'm feeling so creatively zapped and sort of unsuccessful in general. "You wrote another book!" Rob always sweetly reminds me, and that always helps me put it in perspective a bit.

Is everyone else out there so afraid of not being enough? I know it can't just be me. Sometimes I can't tell if I'm actually busy or just overwhelmed.

I'm writing this blog post from a big empty king-sized bed in Denver, with takeout Pad Thai and a big bottle of water next to me. I have a borderline irrational fear of altitude sickness so I'm loading up on carbs and fluids before the morning, when I start Pure Barre training to become an instructor! I mentioned in a blog post a few months ago that I had been thinking about making the leap from Pure Barre client to teacher, and I'm finally doing it, even though it makes me so nervous to think about being on a microphone while I figure out the learning curve. Going to barre regularly has been the main thing that really gives me a routine and sense of belonging in the Bay Area, so I think it's going to be really great to make it into even more of a home base.

So yeah, maybe my New Year's Resolution was to take on less. But I think I'm going to do this instead.

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A Change of Plans
A Change of Plans | Freckled Italian

We signed the first two-year lease of our lives and later that exact same day, someone emailed Rob about a dream job in California that he had applied for in November. The timing felt like a slap in the face, and I resented myself for dreading what I knew would end up turning into a job offer. We had planned to stay in Charlotte, probably for good, and settle down, continue to nurture the wonderful friendships we've made here, have kids, stay close to our families, easily make weekend trips to Virginia or South Carolina.

But the opportunity was great, and after a few calls, an offer was made. Rob and I talked about nothing else for days, and finally we decided that it wasn't something we could pass up. My heart felt broken--one half was overflowing with pride for my husband and his work, and the other half was, honestly, straight up devastated. I thought about the new friends, coffee shops, hair salons, and doctors I'd have to find again. When we moved to Charlotte I thought okay, this is it. And I put down roots for the first time in a long time.

When we left for Minnesota, I was ready for something new. I looked at it as an adventure, and I was excited to make the move. This time, it felt less exciting, but over time Charlotte became our home--I have friends here and a coffee shop where the baristas recognize me. We're regulars at several restaurants and on Friday nights the manager shakes Rob's hand as we walk back to our table on the patio. I teach SkillPop classes every month and when I miss my mom one of us drives only three hours to see the other.

But Rob and I are 26 and 27, respectively. We don't have kids yet, and in so many ways we are still so young. Now is the time. I still feel overwhelmed about it, but after a few weeks I realized that, as usual, my reservations were rooted in fear. At the age of only 27, I had lost my sense of adventure and replaced it with a need for consistency, even if it got in the way of dreams coming true.

So for now, until September, Rob is doing a lot of traveling back and forth between North Carolina and California. And then, probably right around the time summer is winding down, we'll pack up and head west.

I wrote most of this post in April, when we had just made the decision. Since then I've found myself feeling more and more enthusiastic about starting a new adventure. 

"I just want to be normal," I told my friend Daci a couple of months ago, as I tried to figure out if I was excited or scared. I didn't want to keep moving every year or two. I didn't want to constantly have to make new friends and miss my old ones. I wanted to be able to hop in the car and see my brother. And yet, I want more for us. I want Rob to be happy at work. I want us to both be able to chase our dreams and create exactly the kind of life we've always imagined, because it's out there for the taking.

"You have plenty of time to be normal," Daci said.

I think she's right. California, here we come.

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